I hear something. The wind is whistling in the rigging of a neighboring boat here at the dock in Belhaven, well above the predicted 15-20 knots. We got in here just in time. Unpracticed at tying in slips, we take three tries to get in. But it was only blowing about fifteen then. Now, it’s gusting to thirty. Once we tie up in the slip, we spend a good hour fussing with line adjustments before we feel comfortable enough to sit down.
I look over my shoulder and see the source of the new sound. An adorable little twenty-footer by the name of Roane is blowing down on the end of the dock at an alarming speed, her captain in his foulies, trying to lasso a piling. Eric grabs the dock line to pull Willadine in and I jump off in one smooth move, as if we’d practiced. I run down the dock and grab Roane's line just as she blows sideways in a gust. Eric rushes up behind me, having cleverly grabbed the boat hook on his way off Willadine, and catches the Roane’s bowline.
With Roane safe for the moment, her captain runs a shaking hand over his sweaty forehead and says he had found the town dock full and tried to get back out, but was unable to make any headway against this blow. He had no choice as his boat just blew downwind to this dock. Our new friend, Stan, the other neighbor, comes up and we discuss ways to maneuver Roane from her awkward sideways position into a slip in this gale. Eric and Roane’s captain, Bill, get a line amidships as another fellow rushes up to give aid. He saw Roane blowing down and thought we might need help. This is the way of things in the boat world. Everyone pitches in.
With three men and me on the dock, we manage to swing Roane around into the wind and into a slip where she rests more easily, but this wind is now gusting to thirty-five. All three boats are pitching and rolling like mad, the water streaky with foam, two-foot waves rolling in behind the breakwater. We thought it would be calm in here behind the breakwater, but it’s crazy windy and predicted to increase tonight as a storm comes in. We’ve had two sleepless nights in rolly anchorages already and had hoped for a quiet night at the dock with maybe a thunderstorm or two. Oh well. I hate to think what it’s like out in the river.
Not for anything would I pass up the chance to meet Stan and Bill and hear their stories. Stan has some fantastic tales, of surviving cancer, a heart attack and sailing from Lake Champlain in New York, all the way to Florida with virtually no sailing experience in a boat just twenty-five feet, the size of Willadine, only heavier. Bill owned a beautiful Pacific Seacraft (the Rolls Royce of boats) and traded down for Roane, an sweet and salty twenty-foot Flicka. His wife won’t sail with him so he doesn’t need the bigger boat. But he says with a laugh, he sure wished for a heavier boat today, one that would go to windward a little better.
We heard Bill on the radio a couple of days ago, when he snagged a crab pot and Roane was stuck. He says Sea Tow pulled him off at six knots and the line snapped and he was free. Those crab pots are a real hazard. We hear all kinds of interesting things on the radio. The Navy up in Norfolk has been running exercises, reporting “continuous turns to port.” Yes, friends, our tax dollars at work turning warships in circles. Meanwhile, we’re debating whether it’s safe to leave the boat to go to town for dinner. Bill invited us and we’re dying to hear more sailing stories. Next best thing to sailing: listening to sailing stories. Stay tuned.